Art Director. Nationality: German. Born: Bremen, 21 August 1885. Education: Studied engineering and architecture, Munich University. Military Service: Served in the German army during World War I. Career: Supervising architect for German government in the Cameroons; 1919–23—designer for UFA/EFA, Berlin; 1923–28—art director, and then head designer and supervising art director, 1928–51, Paramount, Hollywood. Awards: Academy Award for Frenchman's Creek, 1945, Sunset Boulevard, 1950, Samson and Delilah, 1950. Died: In Bernardsville, New Jersey, 24 October 1966.
Films as Art Director:
Der letzte Zeuge (Gartner); Lillis Ehe (Speyer); Der Teufel und die Madonna (Boese and Speyer); Maria Magdalena (Schünzel); Seelenverkäufer (Boese); Seine Beichte (Moest); Die Duplizität der Ereignisse (Gärtner)
Das Frauenhaus von Brescia (Moest); Der Marquis d'Or (Schünzel); Der Reigen (Oswald); Die Fürstin Woronzoff (Gärtner); Florentinische Nachte (Wienskowitz and Wassung); Kurfurstendamm (Ein Höllenspuk in 6 Akten) (Oswald); Lady Godiva (Moest); Maria Tudor (Gärtner); Max, der Vielgeprüfte (Grunwald); Nachtgestvalten (Oswald); Napoleon und die kleine Wäscherin (Gärtner); Sizilianische Blutrache (Gärtner); Ut Mine Stromtid (Moest); Die Stimme (Gärtner); Manolescus Memoiren (Oswald)
Danton (All for a Woman) (Buchowertzki); Das Rätsel der Sphinx (Gärtner); Lady Hamilton (Oswald); Die grosse und die kleine Welt (Mack); Fahrendes Volk (Gärtner); Die Liebschaftenden des Hektor Dalmore (Oswald)
Fridericus Rex: Ein Königsschicksal (von Csrépy); Peter der Grosse (Buchowetzki)
Boheme (Righelli); Die Frau mit den Millionen (Wolff)
Forbidden Paradise (Lubitsch)
East of Suez (Walsh)
Underworld (von Sternberg); The Student Prince (Lubitsch)
The Last Command (von Sternberg); The Dragnet (von Sternberg); The Patriot (Lubitsch); The Street of Sin (Stiller); The Docks of New York (von Sternberg)
A Dangerous Woman (Lee); Betrayal (Milestone); The Case of Lena Smith (von Sternberg); Thunderbolt (von Sternberg); The Love Parade (Lubitsch)
Monte Carlo (Lubitsch); The Vagabond King (Berger); Morocco (von Sternberg)
An American Tragedy (von Sternberg); Dishonored (von Sternberg); The Smiling Lieutenant (Lubitsch); Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Mamoulian)
Love Me Tonight (Mamoulian); The Man I Killed (Broken Lullaby) (Lubitsch); One Hour with You (Lubitsch and Cukor); A Farewell to Arms (Borzage); Trouble in Paradise (Lubitsch); Shanghai Express (von Sternberg)
Kiss and Make Up (Thompson); Ladies Should Listen (Taurog); We're Not Dressing (Taurog); Cleopatra (DeMille); Six of a Kind (McCarey); Now and Forever (Hathaway); It's a Gift (McLeod); The Scarlet Empress (von Sternberg); Belle of the Nineties (McCarey)
The Crusades (DeMille); So Red the Rose (K. Vidor); Paris in the Spring (Milestone); The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (Hathaway); The Devil Is a Woman (von Sternberg); Ruggles of Red Gap (McCarey); Rumba (Gering); Peter Ibbetson (Hathaway); Enter Madam (Nugent); Wings in the Dark (Flood); The Last Outpost (Barton and Gasnier); Goin' to Town (Hall)
Hollywood Boulevard (Florey); Wedding Present (Wallace); Go West, Young Man (Hathaway); Desire (Borzage); Klondike Annie (Walsh); Anything Goes (Tops Is the Limit) (Milestone); The General Died at Dawn (Milestone); Mississippi (Sutherland); The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (Hathaway); The Plainsman (DeMille); Poppy (Sutherland); The Big Broadcast of 1937 (Leisen); Border Flight (Lovering); Desert Gold (Hogan); F-Man (Cline); Girl of the Ozarks (Shea); Give Us This Night (Hall); Lady Be Careful (Reed); The Preview Murder Mystery (Florey); The Princess Comes Across (Howard); The Texas Rangers (K. Vidor); Yours for the Asking (Hall)
Angel (Lubitsch); Artists and Models (Walsh); The Buccaneer (DeMille); Easy Living (Leisen); Bulldog Drummond Comes Back (L. King); High, Wide, and Handsome (Mamoulian); Hold 'em, Navy (Neumann); I Met Him in Paris (Ruggles); King of Gamblers (Florey); Interns Can't Take Money (Santell); Night Club Scandal (Murray); Make Way for Tomorrow (McCarey); Mountain Music (Florey); Partners in Crime (Murphy); Souls at Sea (Hathaway); Swing High, Swing Low (Leisen); This Way Please (Florey); Thrill of a Lifetime (Archainbaud); True Confessions (Ruggles); Turn Off the Moon (Seiler); Wells Fargo (Lloyd)
The Arkansas Traveler (Santell); You and Me (F. Lang); Artists and Models Abroad (Leisen); Zaza (Cukor); The Big Broadcast of 1938 (Leisen); College Swing (Walsh); Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (Lubitsch); Hunted Men (L. King); Bulldog Drummond in Africa (L. King); Campus Confessions (Archainbaud); Bulldog Drummond's Peril (Hogan); Give Me a Sailor (Nugent); If I Were King (Lloyd); Illegal Traffic (L. King); Prison Farm (L. King); Sing You Sinners (Ruggles); Sons of the Legion (Hogan); Stolen Heaven (Stone); Thanks for the Memory (Archainbaud)
Arrest Bulldog Drummond (Hogan); Beau Geste (Wellman); Bulldog Drummond's Bride (Hogan); Café Society (Griffith); The Cat and the Canary (Nugent); Disbarred (Florey); Disputed Passage (Borzage); Geronimo (Sloane); The Gracie Allen Murder Case (Green); Grand Jury Secrets (Hogan); The Great Victor Herbert (Stone); Invitation to Happiness (Ruggles); The Light That Failed (Wellman); Man about Town (Sandrich); Never Say Die (Nugent); Our Neighbors, the Carters (Murphy); One Thousand Dollars a Touchdown (Hogan); Persons in Hiding (L. King); Rulers of the Sea (Lloyd); Some Like It Hot (Archainbaud); Union Pacific (DeMille); Night of Nights (Milestone); St. Louis Blues (Walsh)
Arise My Love (Leisen); Victory (Cromwell); North West Mounted Police (DeMille); The Biscuit Eater (Heisler); Buck Benny Rides Again (Sandrich); Christmas in July (P. Sturges); Comin' round the Mountain (Archainbaud); Dr. Cyclops (Schoedsack); Emergency Squad (Dmytryk); The Farmer's Daughter (Hogan); Golden Gloves (Dmytryk); The Great McGinty (P. Sturges); I Want a Divorce (Murphy); Love Thy Neighbor (Sandrich); Mystery Sea Raider(Dmytryk); Opened by Mistake (Archainbaud); A Night at Earl Carroll's (Neumann); The Ghost Breakers (Marshall); Queen of the Mob (Hogan); Rangers of Fortune (Wood); Remember the Night (Leisen); Road to Singapore (Schertzinger); Safari (Griffith); Seventeen (L. King); Those Were the Days (Reed); Typhoon (L. King); Untamed (Archainbaud); Women without Names (Florey)
Aloma of the South Seas (Santell); Bahama Passage (Griffith); Birth of the Blues (Schertzinger); Buy Me That Town (Forde); Caught in the Draught (Butler); Glamour Boy (Murphy); Henry Aldrich for President (Bennett); Hold Back the Dawn (Leisen); I Wanted Wings (Leisen); Louisiana Purchase (Cummings); New York Town (C. Vidor); Night of January 16th (Clemens); Nothing but the Truth (Nugent); One Night in Lisbon (Griffith); The Shepherd of the Hills (Hathaway); Skylark (Sandrich); There's Magic in Music (Stone); Virginia (Griffith); West Point Widow (Siodmak); Sullivan's Travels (Sturges)
Beyond the Blue Horizon (Santell); Dr. Broadway (A. Mann); The Forest Rangers (Marshall); The Glass Key (Heisler); The Great Man's Lady (Wellman); Henry Aldrich, Editor (Bennett); Holiday Inn (Sandrich); I Married a Witch (Clair); Lucky Jordan (Tuttle); The Major and the Minor (Wilder); Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (Murphy); My Favorite Blonde (Lanfield); A Night in New Orleans (Clemens); My Heart Belongs to Daddy (Siodmak); Pacific Blackout (Murphy); Palm Beach Story (P. Sturges); Priorities on Parade (Rogell); Reap the Wild Wind (DeMille); Road to Morocco (Butler); Star Spangled Rhythm (Marshall); Street of Chance (Hively); Sweater Girl (Clemens); Take a Letter, Darling (Leisen); This Gun for Hire (Tuttle); Wake Island (Farrow)
China (Farrow); The Crystal Ball (Nugent); Five Graves to Cairo (Wilder); For Whom the Bell Tolls (Wood); The Good Fellows (Graham); Happy Go Lucky (Bernhardt); Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour (Bennett); Henry Aldrich Haunts a House (Bennett); Henry Aldrich Swings It (Bennett); Hostages (Tuttle); Lady Bodyguard (Clemens); No Time for Love (Leisen); Riding High (Marshall); Salute for Three (Murphy); So Proudly We Hail (Sandrich); True to Life (Marshall); Young and Willing (Griffith)
And Now Tomorrow (Pichel); And the Angels Sing (Binyon); Double Indemnity (Wilder); Frenchman's Creek (Leisen); Going My Way (McCarey); The Great Moment (P. Sturges); Hail the Conquering Hero (P. Sturges); Henry Aldrich, Boy Scout (Bennett); Here Comes the Waves (Sandrich); Henry Aldrich Plays Cupid (Bennett); Henry Aldrich's Little Secret (Bennett); The Hitler Gang (Farrow); The Hours before the Dawn (Tuttle); Lady in the Dark (Leisen); The Man in Half Moon Street (Murphy); Ministry of Fear (F. Lang); The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (P. Sturges); The National Barn Dance (Bennett); Practically Yours (Leisen); Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (Allen); Rainbow Island (Murphy); Standing Room Only (Lanfield); Till We Meet Again (Borzage); The Story of Dr. Wassell (DeMille); The Uninvited (Allen); You Can't Ration Love (Fuller)
The Affairs of Susan (Seiter); Duffy's Tavern (Walker); Hold That Blonde (Marshall); Incendiary Blonde (Marshall); Kitty (Leisen); The Lost Weekend (Wilder); Love Letters (Dieterle); Masquerade in Mexico (Leisen); A Medal for Benny (Pichel); Miss Susie Slagle's (Berry); Murder, He Says (Marshall); Out of This World (Walker); Road to Utopia (Walker); Salty O'Rourke (Walsh); The Story Club (Walker); The Unseen (Allen); You Came Along (Farrow)
The Blue Dahlia (Marshall); The Bride Wore Boots (Pichel); California (Farrow); Monsieur Beaucaire (Marshall); O.S.S. (Pichel); Our Hearts Were Growing Up (Russell); The Searching Wind (Dieterle); To Each His Own (Leisen); The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (Milestone); Two Years before the Mast (Farrow); The Virginian (Gilmore); The Well-Groomed Bride (Lanfield)
Suddenly It's Spring (Leisen); Blaze of Noon (Farrow); Calcutta (Farrow); Dear Ruth (Russell); Easy Come, Easy Go (Farrow); Golden Earrings (Leisen); I Walk Alone (Haskin); The Imperfect Lady (Allen); Ladies' Man (Russell); My Favorite Brunette (Nugent); The Perils of Pauline (Marshall); The Road to Rio (McLeod); The Trouble with Women (Lanfield); Unconquered (DeMille); Variety Girl (Marshall); Welcome Stranger (Nugent); Where There's Life (Lanfield); Wild Harvest (Garnett)
The Accused (Dieterle); Beyond Glory (Farrow); The Big Clock (Farrow); Dream Girl (Leisen); The Emperor Waltz (Wilder); A Foreign Affair (Wilder); Hazard (Marshall); Isn't It Romantic? (McLeod); Miss Tatlock's Millions (Haydn); My Own True Love (Bennett); The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (Farrow); The Paleface (McLeod); Saigon (Fenton); The Sainted Sisters (Russell); Sealed Verdict (Allen); Sorry, Wrong Number (Litvak); Whispering Smith (Fenton)
Alias Nick Beal (Farrow); Bride of Vengeance (Leisen); A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Garnett); The File on Thelma Jordan (Siodmak); The Great Gatsby (Nugent); The Great Lover (Hall); Dear Wife (Haydn); My Friend Irma (Marshall); Red, Hot, and Blue (Farrow); Rope of Sand (Dieterle); Samson and Delilah (DeMille); Song of Surrender (Leisen); Sorrowful Jones (Lanfield); Streets of Laredo (Fenton); Top o' the Morning (Miller)
Dark City (Dieterle); Sunset Boulevard (Wilder); No Man of Her Own (Leisen); Riding High (Capra); Paid in Full (Dieterle); Captain Carey, U.S.A. (Leisen); My Friend Irma Goes West (Wallis); The Furies (A. Mann); Union Station (Maté); Copper Canyon (Farrow); Let's Dance (McLeod); Fancy Pants (Marshall); Mr. Music (Haydn); September Affair (Dieterle); Branded (Maté)
Appointment with Danger (Allen); A Place in the Sun (Stevens)
A Farewell to Arms (C. Vidor)
By DREIER: articles—
"Motion Picture Sets," in Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers (Easton, Pennsylvania), November 1931.
"Designing the Sets," in We Make the Movies, edited by Nancy Naumburg, New York, 1937.
"Les Decors," in Silence, on tourne, Paris, 1948.
On DREIER: articles—
Thompson, David, in American Film (Washington, D.C.), February 1977.
In The Art of Hollywood, edited by John Hambley, London, 1979.
Dickstein, M., "Out of the Past: Sunset Boulevard Revisited," in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 31, no. 1, 1989.
Girard, Martin, "Hollywood gothique: Sunset Blvd.," in Séquences (Haute-Ville), April 1994.
Lambert, Gavin, "Origins of the Sunset Boulevard Mansion: An Academy Award-winning Design That Blurred Fact and Fiction," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1998.
* * *
The influx of talented Germans who invaded Hollywood in the 1920s to change the course of American filmmaking included art director Hans Dreier. Like other German moviemakers, inspired by Expressionist art movements and the theater of Max Reinhardt, Dreier conveyed moments of horror and intensity by using such stylistic devices as violent lines, exaggerated spaces, and dramatic chiaroscuro.
Dreier's films with Josef von Sternberg rank among the art director's most expressionistic. His torturous, Russo-Byzantine The Scarlet Empress and moody Shanghai Express produced in viewers an empathetic anxiety towards the characters' situations. In many ways, these films served as precursors to the film noir. Dreier's early training as an architect enabled him to manipulate space expertly. He finished these environments with such evocative details as posters peeling from aging walls and discarded clothing draped on idle chairs. This type of ambience continued to appear in his work as late as 1950 with his designs (done in collaboration with John Meehan) for Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard.
Dreier's alternative style can be compared to early, German-period epics of Fritz Lang and Ernst Lubitsch; in these, the artist sacrifices accuracy for effect. For Cecil B. DeMille's Cleopatra and The Crusades, Dreier produced a curious hybrid—an international moderne translation of a 19th-century academic interpretation of a historic time. Retaining those elements conforming to contemporary taste, revelling in emblem and drapery, this style suggested the past but in popular proportions.
Dreier developed a different style for Lubitsch's later films, in which he illustrated the decadent aristocracy's fantastic world—as delectable as a Viennese pastry. Slightly restrained, yet still ornate, his curves whipped gaily with the rhythms of light operetta, rather than those of an intricate, rococo string quartet.
Director Rouben Mamoulian depended on Dreier to adapt previous visual treatments for his particular directorial ends. Mamoulian often based his works on other directors' special genres, but injected his own insights along the way. Love Me Tonight paid homage to Lubitsch, for instance, while Song of Songs paid respects to von Sternberg's image of Marlene Dietrich. Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde contrasted Dreier's updated Beaux Arts neoclassicism with Expressionism, as Jekyll's respectably ordered universe clashed with Hyde's chaotic disrepute to illustrate the theme of man's dual nature. With his own disparate styles, it might be said that Dreier illustrated just such a coexistence in his work.
—Edith C. Lee